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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An interview with AainaA...

Roslan Aziz

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Truly one of Malaysia's most lionized music producer with a positive attitude towards Life, and awards in his repertoire, Roslan Abdul Aziz Saad Ismail {otherwise known as Roslan Aziz of RAP | Universal Music} has garnered interests worldwide from as near as Indonesia to as farthest as South America.

Roslan Aziz, Mukhlis Nor in `aLi
A skilled and gifted sound engineer, he has been awarded Most Promising Producer at the Music Producers' Award 2002. A prodigy at five, Roslan is behind unrivaled Malaysian accomplishments the likes of Sheila Majid and Zainal Abidin, Amir Yusoff, Prema, Zubir Ali, Raja Atilia and 'aLi.

AamarnA Lifestyle {AA}: What was your reaction when Obama won?

Obama's presidential victory would have had an impact on me way back when I was much younger and more easily impressionable. But at this day and age I have learnt to be less naïve when it comes to bureaucratic and governmental matters. Although such a sweeping change in the US political landscape does seem somewhat drastic and at the same time hopeful, I feel that the change is merely cosmetic. The way I see it, Obama's image, and him being the first elected African-American president, gives the impression of breaking away from the existing system to give way for bigger and better things to happen. But in reality the change is just superficial because it would take more than one person to change the world.

On that note, there is a similarity between music and politics, when the public calls for a change we have to do our best to give them something different and new. Success can only be measured by how well people respond to the transformation and how widely it is received.

AA: Having come a long way with Sheila, Zainal Abidin, Amir Yusuff amongst others, who are you most likely to bank on in the next five years?

It is difficult to say, the music industry back then was not what it is now. Then, when I came raw natural talent and I saw potential, I would take them under my wing to help them nurture and develop their craft until they are finally ready to be revealed to the public. The process is tedious, taxing, and above all costly. You would have had spent thousands of ringgit on a single artist for even before they are known. Today, it has become simply impractical for a label to sign an unknown budding talent and take him or her through the various pain-staking processes necessary to become a full-fledged artiste.

Roslan Aziz - Pre & Post production
But with the rich pool of talent within the industry today, it is more advantageous to collaborate with other artists. This way collectively we would be able to pursue a wide assortment of projects as we would each bring to the table our niche area of expertise and can still achieve what we set out to do.Like what we did with Atilia,Siti Nurhaliza, Puteri Gunung Ledang.....For now it is 'aLi.

Having said that however, I find there are a lot of talented singers and artistes who are doing more than the pop and mainstream but are not given due exposure, coverage or airtime. For instance, Laguna Records, Butterfingers, Love Me Butch and Kartel… with their hard work, passion and love for their art, they have braved, and still braving, their way through the industry seizing every opportunity they get to have their music heard. But talent alone can only go so far, we need to be more musically literate. Singers and artistes should pursue higher education and fully understand the science behind the art. Most of the younger generation artistes are too ignorant and they will have trouble sustaining themselves in the industry.

AA: What genre will you be promoting and will it be more stylised?

I can't think of an existing genre that defines my brand of music accurately. It is eclectic and not limited by the boundaries of a particular genre. You may sometimes find tints of soul, jazz, rock, or R&B, but every piece possess a common and distinct traditional Malay, or rather, Asian element. As a 'Music Man', I cannot run from my identity, my soul. While I make the kind of music I love, I am very conscious about how the public would react. Ultimately, I produce the kind of music I love which I feel would also satisfy the masses, especially my fans.

After all, what good is making music if there is no one to listen?

AA: Will we see the RAP label internationalized breaking off its Asian soil, going abroad?

I see no need to break away from 'Asian soil', as it were, just to be able to make an impact in the international front. In fact, R.A.P had been the first local recording label to generate interest from abroad back in 1987. We stirred quite a following throughout the regional music scene and had staged sold-out concerts in Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Korea.

We didn't stop there, the R.A.P footprint extends to Europe, North America and South America as well.

More recently, I had produced Dato' Siti Nurhaliza's 'Live' Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2005. And in 2006 the production of the second season of Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical was staged in Singapore where I had been Musical Director. But the primary focus of R.A.P now is aLi and together with Mukhlis I want to bring back the good old days of R.A.P where we brought our sounds all across the globe. With 'aLi' I believe we are able to once again rise to that level of success. Now, with such advancement in technology and the infinite prospects provided by the internet, going globally is made a lot easier. That is why we {Mukhlis Nor} decided to launched "aLi - The Album" digitally last year before we released it in physical format.

The response so far has been very encouraging.

AA: Of all the ones you've written, which one is your best?

I am what I like to call a 'man of music', a 'Musicman'… I am not a composer per se, and although, I have composed songs several songs, I am a more competent music producer producing albums. So if your question meant of all the albums I have produced of which do I consider I best, my answer is Sheila Majid's 'Ratu' album {or Zainal's GAMAL}.

AA: What is your pre-writing process like?

Pre-writing process ? I don't think I ever had a 'process'. I would sit with my 'tools', a musical instrument{s}, a computer {fixed with the necessary sound processing software}, or any sound mixing equipment at my disposal, and just tweak away. The idea is not to sit around waiting for inspiration to strike; you have to start by doing something, anything; and once you get in motion you will see things fall into place.

AA: What is the catalyst that spurs you to create?

I would have to say that my kids are my primary source of inspiration. I would be paralyzed without them. And I firmly believe that my talent is a God-given gift which is not only mine, it is meant for everyone. So as long that there is more music in me and as long a God would allow, I will make more music.

AA: If your music can be classified as book titles would it be fiction, or non-fiction?

Both but Non-fiction mostly, my music's real and is driven by true feelings and emotions. Although, some can be quite abstract, like 'Merung' {a mystical folklore}, the title and lyrics is based on something fictional.

AA: Would it be based on local or world events?

More local, I suppose. It is only natural to be affected by things that happened to us or to the people we know. It is hard to isolate the familiarity of my surroundings and not have it reflected in my work. On the same note, I cannot escape or ignore what goes on in other parts of the world either. Despite all external influences, my music comes from within and there is a slice of me in each and every piece of music which I worked on.

AA: How did you discover your passion for composition, and producing? What drives the inner you to spin the yarn so to speak? Who is your greatest inspiration?

If you were to ask my mother, she would tell you how music has been in me ever since I was born. It was not something I had 'discovered' one day because my passion for music had been innate and came naturally. I guess it was my 'calling'. But I never would have thought I'd make a career out of it. My number 1 driver is my children. And I have found that the greatest source of motivation comes from my family. If not for the firm foundation of my upbringing and their continued support I can't think how I could have made it so far and have achieved so much.

I still hear my grandfather's voice in my head telling me to keep my faith in God and that faith will lead me down the right path intended for me. Music is not just something I found myself good at, it is in my blood, it is in me. During my break from the music industry, I could not find the same passion I had for music in anything else. There was this huge emptiness and a great sense of loss.

And that is what drove me back.

I try to always give my all and do my utmost best, no matter how big or small the task may be. It's probably because my grandmother always said, "If you do something, give it you best shot and make sure it is your BEST."

AA: If you had not chosen to share your gift of music, what else would you have done? Would it be in the creative industry or something totally independent and different?

Roslan Aziz Production | Universal Music
Now, I can't imagine my life not making music. But if I hadn't taken the road I had, I probably would've become a football player. I was crazy about football and I bet I would've made quite a football star too...hahahaha...{not here in Malaysia though} But seriously, in university I had pursued a degree in actuarial science which had nothing at all to do with creativity. If I had stuck at it I could now be working in the finance sector, or perhaps even running my own business, or maybe be a part of the nation's think-tank.

AA: Are there any dreams, or goals that you have yet to fulfill?

I want our homegrown music out there and listed amongst other cultural music genres which managed to cross geographical borders into the international music arena. Latin music, Chinese music, Brazilian music, Spanish music, and even Hawaiian music… people can immediately identify with their distinct sounds. My goal is to serve the world a taste of Malaysian tradition and soul.

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